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Recent Blog Posts

Why are dogs loyal?

Dogs are famous for their loyalty, but is this a true emotional bond or a survival instinct? Science sides with sentiment in this case. Dogs live up to their title of “Man’s Best Friend,” but many pet owners wonder whether this devotion is the result of an emotional bond or if Fido is simply acting in his own self-interest. Science is on the side of sentiments in the case of canine loyalty. To help us understand dogs’ devotion, it is useful to look back at canines and humans’ shared evolutionary history. Most researchers agree that mutual benefits led to the domestication of dogs, eventually leading to our modern-day companions. Leftover spoils from human hunts offered a ready source of food for wild dogs to scavenge and, over time, those canines more accepting of human proximity gained easier access to food. Selective breeding of these friendlier dogs may have played a role in shaping our pets, too, as dogs later filled roles as guard animals and companions. Evidence shows humans buried dogs near their settlements as early as roughly 13,000 years ago. With the advent of the modern-day canine came changes that allowed dogs to be excellent students of human social cues. For example, in an article published in the journal Animal Cognition, researchers found that dogs showed a stronger response to humans who were crying versus those who were simply talking or humming. This was true whether the subject was the dog’s owner or a stranger, indicating a high level of emotional aptitude when it comes to understanding people. Other studies found that, when interacting with each other, both humans and dogs experience a rise in the feel-good hormone oxytocin, which is released during positive social experiences such as hugging someone you love. Another study found that when dogs sniffed their owners’ scents, they formed a positive association through activation of the caudate nucleus, a reward center of the brain. These changes combined with canines’ natural need for a social group to help create the modern-day pets we call family. Group behavior is a survival mechanism for dogs, who rely on the success of their packs for their own survival and wellbeing. Many animal experts believe this pack mentality also applies to our pet’s relationship with their human family members. Packs survive because group members depend on each other and our pets bring this mentality into their modern-day social circles, contributing to the loyalty that dogs demonstrate when it comes to their beloved humans.

Are cat cafes good for cats?

Cat cafes are wildly popular among animal loves, but the business model is nuanced when it comes to treating resident felines right. Since the first cat café opened in in Taiwan 1998, the concept has become popular among feline aficionados across the globe. While customers flock to these establishments for an interactive experience with the shops’ feline residents, some animal rights activists question whether the business model is truly humane for its four-legged fellows. Cat cafes marry traditional coffee shops with the experience of interacting with cuddly cats. Behind most of cafes’ business models is the underlying goal to help shelter cats get adopted by moving animals out of the shelter and into a temporary space in which they can thrive and interface with potential pet owners. However, opponents of the businesses argue that business and philanthropy can create opposing goals and, in some cases, lead to an unhealthy environment for the cats and customers. Not all cats are suited for a cat café. Felines must be well-socialized, as well as up-to-date on all of their vaccines. Routine health checks are a key component of maintaining a healthy group resident felines, as cats live together in a group and any illness can easily spread between them in the café environment. Likewise, the café itself must be well-managed to ensure a sanitary experience for its customers. Though many cat cafes run a scintillating business, feeding, watering, cleaning litter boxes, and maintaining an overall clean space for a dozen or so felines can be a true labor of love for cat café staff. The cafes navigate health codes by keeping kittens and coffee separate, such as in two distinct rooms with a large glass pane between them. This allows business owners to separate animals from food and beverages, and typically involves two separate entrances for the two sides of the business. A well-run cat café also requires provision of a suitable space for the cats themselves. While the concept can prove great for socializing shelter animals, cats naturally need alone time and tend to rely on small groups for stability. Strangers may stress even the friendliest felines, so cat successful café owners must find a way to balance their animals’ needs with the desire to socialize and adopt them out into loving homes. One sign a cat café has its feline residents’ wellbeing at the core of its business model is the provision of spaces for cats to hide when they need a break from strangers’ affection. Another mark of a responsible establishment is clear rules posted about how to interact with the cats, such as refraining from picking up, chasing or roughhousing the animals. Conscientious customers should avoid cat cafes that tout pure-bred companions, as this removes the benefit of helping shelter cats find homes. The presence of healthy elderly cats is another sign of a humane business, as this help improve chances that these animals are adopted. As with any business, cat cafes can be run well or poorly. In this case, however, the wellbeing of animals is at stake along with the businesses’ success. Look for signs of healthy, well-cared-for resident felines when choosing to patronize a cat café.

How do dogs learn new words?

Dogs naturally communicate with body language, but are able to learn words and commands, too. Here’s how Fido masters the English language. When you want to teach your dog a new trick, chances are you use a verbal command such as “sit” or “stay.” Though words come easily to us, our canine companions often understand visual cues and even the tone of our voices better, making a hybrid approach to learning most effective for Fido. A study published in Psychology Today found that dogs use their keen sense of hearing to discern between words that stand for commands, objects and praise. By measuring dogs’ brain patterns, researchers found that unfamiliar words activated the auditory cortex more than commands a dog already knows, meaning our four-legged friends pay more attention to new words. This allows them to work harder to determine what these unfamiliar combinations of sounds mean, likely assisting as your pet works to understand a new word or phrase. Because he has already learned that certain sounds stand for certain things, he understands that new sounds can stand for new objects or commands. Known as sharpening, this phenomenon helps your pet associate the word with its meaning and, eventually, learn new phrases. Dogs evolved with people and have a strong desire to please their human family members, so they can be highly motivated to learn the words we use most often. Each auditory connection takes practice, however. If you want to expand your pet’s vocabulary, start by ensuring all members of your household use the same word for the same command or object. For example, if you say “stay,” but your partner says “wait,” it will only slow the learning process as your pet masters this new command. Short words are easier to learn the long ones, so try to stick to one- or two-syllable commands, if possible. Because dogs naturally communicate with their body language, it can help to attach a visual command such as a hand motion or head nod with a new command. Be sure to maintain consistency in these motions, too. Dogs are attuned to our energy, so be aware of your body language and how it matches the word you are trying to teach your pet. Encourage him with plenty of praise when he correctly recognizes a new word or command. Food is a language we all understand, so use treats for positive reinforcement, too. With a little practice and consistent training, you can help your four-legged friend expand his vocabulary and set of tricks.
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